4). Also, Kohlberg never examined if moral reasoning actually reflected moral behavior. Kohlberg focused on boys in a specific United States city. In the film, Johnny Depp, as the title character, puzzles over a moral … But because we do not have sufficient information, we can only base our information on logic and anticipate what he may do and not his background/behavior and environment. Therefore, if Billy has a conscience and regard for others, he would not steal the bike. She has co-authored two books on psychology and media engagement. I found an article, which stated kids within the United States can comprehend moral themes by nine or ten and understand what is wrong and right as early as 19 months (Blair, 2015; “Research Shows Toddlers Understand Right from Wrong at just 19 months,” 2012). 11). Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development. If one is thinking logically, then it would make sense Billy would not take the bike because he does not want to get in trouble. At this stage of moral development, people begin to consider society as a whole when making judgments. He would present each child with a series of such dilemmas and ask them their thoughts on each one to determine the reasoning behind their thinking. Among the more compelling theories of moral development is Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development. Each interview was approximately two hours long and Kohlberg presented each participant with 10 moral dilemmas during that time. The second level is conventional morality, in which individuals will make decisions based on the needs of others because they are either concerned with maintaining a relationship or they may be worried of how they will react. The focus is on maintaining law and order by following the rules, doing one's duty, and respecting authority. Since it was initially proposed, Kohlberg’s theory has been criticized for overemphasizing a Western male perspective on moral reasoning. Kohlberg’s research yielded three levels of moral development. For example, the Heinz dilemma presented above might not be relatable to children who had never been married. Since Kohlberg initially proposed his theory, many criticisms have been leveled against it. Unlike Piaget, Kohlberg believed that not only a cognitive aspect was appointed to moral development but also a social development (personal experiences), should also be included. Kohlberg’s stages of moral development, which include three levels and six stages, expanded on and revised the ideas of Jean Piaget’s previous work on the subject. self-interest). Because of this, Kohlberg felt Piaget’s work was incomplete. His theory was inspired by the research of Jean Piaget and has changed the way sociologists and psychologists look at moral development. People pass through each stage sequentially with the thinking at the new stage replacing the thinking at the previous stage. Western individualist cultures may have different moral philosophies than other cultures. This is an interesting dilemma because there is not sufficient information about Billy to determine what he may do in this scenario. But the druggist said: ‘No, I discovered the drug and I’m going to make money from it.’ So Heinz got desperate and broke into the man’s store to steal the drug for his wife.”. At this stage of moral development, people begin to consider society as a whole when making judgments. Retrieved from http://www.qcc.cuny.edu/SocialSciences/ppecorino/INTRO_TEXT/Chapter%208%20Ethics/Reading-Barger-on-Kohlberg.htm (accessed on 25 February 2018). (2012). Lawrence Kohlberg outlined one of the best-known theories addressing the development of morality in childhood. University of Notre Dame. Billy is a nine-year-old boy, sees a bike he has always wanted. That would be everything we wanted to tell you about Kohlberg’s theory of moral development. The basis of the framework is indicative of three development stages: pre-conventional morality, conventional morality, and post-conventional morality (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2010). At this level, people start to internalize moral standards but not necessarily to question them. Of course, a stolen bike would be reported, so maybe he would think of the consequences of being questioned by the police and that would shun him from taking the bike. Moral standards are dictated by adults and the consequences of breaking the rules. The basis of the framework is indicative of three development stages: pre-conventional morality, conventional morality, and post-conventional morality (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2010). By using ThoughtCo, you accept our, How Psychology Defines and Explains Deviant Behavior, Information Processing Theory: Definition and Examples, What Is the Common Good in Political Science? ThoughtCo uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. Had Kohlberg focused on dilemmas more reflective of his subjects' lives, his results may have been different. At the same time, with insufficient information, assumptions are made, as we cannot validate that all children’s decisions will be based on such principles due to various factors. McDevitt, T. M. & Omrod, J. E. (2010). Although the model is largely focused on adolescent morality, each of the six stages can shed light into the way people think in the workplace, or the way entrepreneurs think about morality as they build their companies. However, if he is thinking “logically,” he knows if he stole the bike, he would not be able to ride it because people would see it and he would also have to explain it to his parents (if they found it on their property or caught him with the bike in his possession). There was one drug that the doctors thought might save her… The druggist was charging ten times what the drug cost him to make. Barger, R. N. (2000). Kohlberg’s theory may be used to understand a range of leadership decisions, ranging from the least ethical to the resoundingly ethical. Lawrence Kohlberg is best known for his model on the stages of moral development. Kohlberg developed his six-stage theory on moral development while working on his doctorate degree. He sought to study a range of children and adolescents in order to determine if there were stages that went beyond those proposed by Piaget. For example, one of the moral dilemmas Kohlberg presented was the following: “In Europe, a woman was near death from a special kind of cancer. It is primarily focused on ethical behavior and handling moral dilemmas. Therefore, it’s not clear if his subjects’ actions fell in line with their ability to think morally. Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development presents a six-stage model of the way morality develops in modern individuals. 6). In Billy’s case, he may contemplate taking the bike because he may fear his parents, teachers, or friends will be disappointed. Moral behavior is the act of behaving based on the moral … Photo credit: By Lawrence Kohlberg, Em Griffin. The dilemmas he used weren’t always applicable to children at the age of 16 and under. 2. Billy is maturing and with maturing comes social responsibility and ethical behavior standards that should be understood at his age. Kohlberg’s theory does not take these cultural differences into account. The determination of his actions would be based on logic and perception. By understanding this theory of moral development, teachers can help to guide the moral characters of their students and … Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2015/01/08/375878511/and-the-moral-of-the-story-is-kids-dont-always-understand-the-moral (accessed on 27 February 2018). Not everyone reached the highest stages in Kohlberg's theory. Kohlberg suggested that only 10-15% of the population was able to achieve this level because of the abstract reasoning it required. Each level consisted of two stages, leading to six stages in total. Self-interest orientation (What's in it for me?) At the lowest level of moral development individuals haven’t yet internalized a sense of morality. Lawrence Kohlberg was inspired by Jean Piaget’s work on moral judgment to create a stage theory of moral development in childhood. http://www.qcc.cuny.edu/SocialSciences/ppecorino/INTRO_TEXT/Chapter%208%20Ethics/Reading-Barger-on-Kohlberg.htm. Lawrence Kohlberg expanded on the earlier work of cognitive theorist Jean Piaget to explain the moral development of children.